Dylann Roof, the South Carolina man who has been charged with killing nine people attending church services in a racially-motivated incident, was able to purchase a gun despite a drug arrest history. Gun rights group Gun Owners of America calls this an “utter failure” and states that background checks are not effective tools in keeping guns out of criminal hands.
A spokesperson for the group, Erich Pratt, had some decisive words about the effectiveness of such background checks, according to the Washington Post.
“Background checks for purchasing firearms have been an utter failure. Arguing that we can make background checks better to stop criminals from getting guns is the very definition of insanity.”
FBI director said James Comey said on Friday that the background check system, called the National Instant Check System, failed to pick up on Roof’s drug possession charge, which occurred on March 1, 2015, in Charleston, South Carolina. The arrest should have prevented Roof, 21-years-old, from purchasing a firearm, which theoretically may have prevented the deaths of the nine people on June 17. There are other ways of purchasing guns, such as illegally from other people, but the fact that the background system check failed is a matter that “should be of heartbreaking importance to all of us,” Comey said in his statement.
According to CNN, Comey also stated “this rips our hearts out” and “we are all sick that this happened.” Comey determined on Thursday night after reviewing all relevant information that the system completely failed, and Roof was able to purchase the weapon, despite laws that state his previous record should have prevented the purchase. Comey said the FBI made the error due to a breakdown in the background check system and confusion with paperwork between the FBI, local police departments, and county jurisdictions, a “clerical error” that proved to be deadly. The breakdown occurred because the wrong arresting agency had been listed on Roof’s arrest record, which caused the system to miss the charge.
Because Roof’s background check took longer than three days to complete, the gun shop owner was allowed to sell the.45 caliber handgun to Roof. The law permits gun sellers to sell guns if a background check takes longer than three days to complete, although it is unclear why it took longer than three days to complete.
Senators reacted on Capitol Hill to the news of the error. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, stated that it was of extreme importance that background checks be completed accurately and thoroughly, while others called for tougher gun background laws. Grassley believes tougher laws are not necessary if the current ones are enforced.
“It’s disastrous that this bureaucratic mistake prevented existing laws from working and blocking an illegal gun sale. The facts undercut attempts to use the tragedy to enact unnecessary gun laws. The American people, and especially the victims’ families, deserve better.”
[Photo courtesy of domaingang]